Family. A hell of a thing.
We brought Thoros, Dottie’s son, back to her. Again. She was very grateful, as we even managed to bring him back mostly in one piece. Also, we managed to bring back his girlfriend, whom Thoros seems very fond of. Obviously, of course, but I mean they seem very much in love. It’s kind of sweet, actually. Dottie’s family is back together, and will soon be becoming larger, methinks. I’m happy for the kid, getting to find someone worth making a part of your family. It has made me think back on my own family.
Don’t let anyone try and fool you; the Dragon Coast is not a good place to grow up. I was born to a Human merchant and a Half-Elf thief. They were married, and my mother, the thief, even helped my dad run his legitimate business. She wasn’t a guild member, though, and that brought some very unfriendly attention. In the Dragon Coast, few people aren’t thieves of one sort or another, and there are plenty of non-guild thieves, but it’s still looked down on. It can be ignored, however, as long as you’re not making too many waves. However, using your skills to benefit a legitimate enterprise that was not backed or authorized by the guild? That was something that couldn’t just be ignored. Still, my father was a shrewd businessman, and my mother a damn good thief. Together, they made it work, despite constant guild harassment.
Then, I was born. You can imagine the shock and horror my parents experienced when my mother gave birth to a dragon. My father’s parents were not Dragon Coast natives, and they had failed to mention a very significant aspect of their lineage to my father. Of course, after I was born, they had to fess up, and admit that, at some point in my family tree, one of my ancestors was a dragon. A real, legitimate dragon. People are stupid, for the most part, and didn’t really understand this. I was ridiculed and hated since birth. My parents, however, loved me very much, and did their best to make a good home for me, despite all the guild pressure, and now all the hate from their neighbors because of me. Say what you will about whatever sins they committed in their lives, my parents were saints.
During my childhood, I didn’t notice a lot that went on in the world outside our home. I was happy, for the most part; shielded from the cruelty outside my front door. However, the attacks on my parents, from both the guild and the general populous, increased in severity every passing year. My earliest memory of starting to realize what was actually going on was when I was six years old. The guild cleaned out my father’s shop. Completely. They had always stolen goods, disrupted his supply shipments, things like that. This time, however, they had broken in in the middle of the night and taken everything. Every gold piece, every product he had put out for sale, everything in the cellar, his entire inventory. Gone. This was a major setback, and a major burden on my family. We almost didn’t make it. Without the shop, we had no money to feed ourselves, and even mom’s thieving was hindered a great deal by guild operatives. However, my father was ever one to give up. He closed the store proper, but build a small vendor hut outside, and scraped up just enough to stock it with a few thing. He basically restarted his business from scratch. And succeeded.
We were never rich. Hell, we were never even well off. We were always hovering just above wondering if we could survive the next month. But my parents were very good at what they did, and even the guild wasn’t able to stop them completely. As I grew up, I became more and more aware of the corruption and vileness around me. Of the people who hated me, and hated my parents for raising me. Of all the thieves and criminals that the whole of the Dragon Coast teemed with. As I grew up, I never knew a moments peace. Even at home, I was tormented by what those around us had said or done. However, my parents taught me to push through it all, to move forward and do what I had to, despite what others said or did. I thought I had learned these lessons pretty well, until one day.
I was in the middle of my adolescent years. I was running an errand for my mother; picking up something from the grocery store, or something. On my way back home, I was stopped by a gang of young thugs, all about my age, led by the Guildmaster’s son. They were obviously looking to put down the scaly freak whose mom had spit in the face of the thieves guild. I ran. I ran as far and fast as I could. They kept up with me. As we ran through town, more thugs and thieves joined the chase, coordinated my whistles and other subtle signals. Eventually, I rounded the wrong corner, and a rock smashed into the side of my head, propelled by a sling fired off by a boy who had timed his shot to catch me just as I came out from behind the corner, his timing assisted by the signals. I stumbled for a bit, and went down hard on some nearby stone steps. The gang, much larger now than it had been to begin with, surrounded me. The Guildmaster’s son had a wicked grin; his the only face I could see with clarity through the haze. I knew they meant to kill me. I was down on the ground. I was dazed. And I was pissed.
It was over before even I knew what had happened. The majority of the gang, the Guildmaster’s son at their lead, went off running as best they could with the injuries they had sustained, terrified for their lives. Four bodies lay lifeless on the stone steps, one burned beyond recognition, the others literally ripped into bloody pieces. Mine was not one of them. The priest who ran the church that the steps belonged to came out to see what the commotion was about. What he saw was me standing in the middle of the bodies, the remaining boys running off in the distance, blood dripping from my mouth and hands. At first, he was horrified, and was about to smite the evil creature in front of him when sanity returned to me and I realized what I had done. I broke down and wept on the bloody stairs. The priest had a change of heart, and took me inside, instead. He figured out who and what I was, and decided to help me. I had a deep hatred for others in my heart, but it struggled with the morality that my parents had raised me with. The priest knew how to help me find peace and balance with that.
The priest wrote a letter to my parents, telling them where I was and what had happened. When they came to get me, they were worried, but that soon faded as they notice that, for the first time since I had become aware of the world outside our front door, I was happy. I was helping people. People who had just as much victims of the crime and corruption of the Dragon Coast as we had been. And the priest was preparing to get me inducted into training to become a paladin of Helm. My parents were happy that I had finally found a place to fit in, and so was I. I never looked back.
I look at Thoros now, and while I am happy for him, I am also a little jealous. I have never had a love. Looking as I do, I have never been the object of any woman’s desire. Most people are, at best, terrified of me when they see me. I have long ago accepted that I would never find a love. Even back then, when I joined the church, it had been a forgone conclusion. The closest I ever got was one of my fellow Paladin’s in training. She was exquisite in style and form. Her skills in battle were matched only by my own. Which was surprising considering how my physiology made me a natural warrior. In training, we became rivals, pushing each other to become better. In life we became friends. We had a great mutual respect for each other, and we both knew that we would some day accomplish great thing in the name of Helm. Before being inducted into the Paladin order, I hadn’t been overly religious, but I had prayed to Helm my whole life. I embraced being one of his Paladins wholeheartedly, and so had she. We were inseparable. Or so we thought.
I have never stopped struggling with my hatred of people, especially those in the Dragon Coast. To this day, even, it takes a great amount of willpower to not smite everyone I meet for doing even the slightest of wrongs. I’ve gotten a lot better since I moved away from the hellhole that is the Dragon Coast, but at that time, it still surrounded me. The more I learned about Helm’s justice, the more angry I grew with the people who lived there. It reached a point where I could not stay there any longer. As soon as my training was complete, I left the Dragon Coast for good. I wanted my friend to come with me, but she refused. She insisted that her place was there, helping the people who could find help nowhere else. She had hoped we could clean up the Dragon Coast together, but she knew as well as I did that, if I stayed there, I would use my training to kill everyone. Neither of us wanted that. So I left to become a wondering paladin, bringing Helm’s justice to anyone who needed it who wasn’t in the Dragon Coast. She did the opposite, and stayed behind to bring Helm’s justice to where it was needed most.
I miss her. We haven’t spoken much since we parted ways. A letter here or there make sure we were still alive, but nothing approaching real communication. Still, I have no intention of ever returning to the Dragon Coast. Even though that means never seeing either of my families again.